Land of Opportunity: Family Pays Passage for Daughter to Travel

Woman worked as housekeeper in the land of opportunity; family paid her passage, thinking everyone in America was rich.

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My grandmother, Elizabeth Gammeringer, came to the land of opportunity from Messtettin, Germany, alone when she was 18. Her relatives got the $80 together for her passage over. She arrived by way of Ellis Island with "over $7, but less than $8." She knew only two English words. I often heard her say, "All I knew in English was 'yes' and 'no,' and I kept getting those mixed up." The man who processed her papers felt sorry for Grandmother and offered her a home with his family. He paid her $2 a week to help his wife with the housework and children. She stayed with this family for about two years and learned the language. My German grandfather had lost his wife and was left with four small children. He put an ad in the paper for a German housekeeper. My grandmother, then 20 years old, answered the ad; they were married in 1902. He was Nicholas Meyer, son of Christoff and Helena Meyer, from Trier, Germany.

My grandmother said that her relatives thought that everyone in America was rich. They planned for her to send money for all of them to come over when she got to America. She did have a sister who came over later.

I visited some relatives in Germany a couple of years ago, one of whom had a letter from my grandmother, written after she had been over here awhile. She told how disappointed she was to find everyone in America was not rich and ended by saying, "1 even have to wash my husband's overalls."

She came here at 18 and died at 83. All her life she pronounced her "th's" as though they were "d's": dis, dat, dem, dose, etc.

Melba Meyer Wiggins
Paden, Oklahoma


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.